An anti-corruption court in Pakistan today postponed the indictment of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar in Panama Papers case till October 19 due to protests by lawyers.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had registered three cases of corruption and money laundering against Mr Sharif, 67, his family members and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Islamabad Accountability Court after the Supreme Court disqualified him as prime minister on July 28.
As the court was about to begin the proceedings, lawyers started protesting in the court room of Judge Muhammad Bashir against security arrangements which had “restricted their movement in the court premises”.
Judge Bashir left the court room and later announced the postponement of the hearing till October 19.
Mr Sharif skipped the hearing as he has not returned from London where he is busy looking after his wife Kulsoom. A senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that Mr Sharif had nominated a representative to appear before the court to face the indictment and deny the charges.
Maryam, while interacting with reporters, expressed concern over the unnecessary hurdles created for lawyers and asked the interior ministry to probe the incident.
“I don’t know who created the problems for the lawyers. It should have been avoided,” she said.
Local TV channels showed that Maryam and Safdar were present inside the court when lawyers created ruckus. They had also attended the previous hearing.
Meanwhile, PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid said: “Nawaz Sharif today did not appear before the Accountability Court in Islamabad because he is in London to look after his ailing wife Begum Kulsoom”.
Mr Sharif may return on the next hearing but it depends on the condition of his wife, Mr Rashid said. The PML-N has not given a specific time frame for the return of Mr Sharif.
“No time frame can be given at this stage as Mian sahib (Sharif) is busy in London looking after his wife. He may return to the country once the chemotherapy of Begum Kulsoom completes (after about three months),” a close aide of Mr Sharif told news agency PTI.
The court during the hearing on October 9 decided to separate the trial of Mr Sharif’s sons Hussain and Hassan from Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law.
It had also ordered to start the process of declaring Mr Sharif’s sons proclaimed offender for failing to appear before the court.
Hussain and Hassan have been given a 30-day deadline (till November 10) to appear before the court failing which they will be declared proclaimed offenders, the NAB has said.
Mr Sharif’s wife Kulsoom, who is suffering from throat cancer, has undergone three surgeries in the UK so far.
The anti-graft body NAB had frozen the bank accounts and seized properties of Sharif and his family members to put pressure on them to appear before the court.
Mr Sharif had failed to appear on Monday before the court as he was in London with Kulsoom.
Mr Sharif’s family has alleged that the cases are politically motivated. He may be jailed after the indictment.
He had to step down as prime minister and president of the PML-N party after being disqualified by the Supreme Court.
Mr Sharif was re-elected as the president of the PML-N on October 3 and immediately demanded that those who disqualified him should respect the people’s mandate and democracy.